The next era at The Lexington, a historic restaurant in St. Paul’s Summit Hill, is about to begin.
When Thoma and Riebel bought the place in April 2014, they figured it would be a standard turnaround. Then, they realized, there were 17 critical fire violations, asbestos in the ceiling and no certificate of occupancy for the restaurant.
Five and a half million dollars later, they’re finally ready to usher in customers.
The Lexington started taking reservations on Monday (Jan. 23) and booked up the first six days in less than an hour, Thoma said.
“Everything is new, from the electrical, the plumbing, structural, ventilation, lighting,” Thoma said. “It was almost like finding a Ferrari in a barn state and having to restore it from the frame up.”
The result is a crisply new, but classic take, on the supper club that originally opened in 1935 and will see its second debut on Feb. 9. While nearly everything had to be replaced, much of the original charm of the Lexington remains, which closed June 2013. The carved wood paneling that serves as walls in the 100-seat dining area has been refinished and much of the original artwork from the late 1800s and the early 1900s, restored. The bronze chandeliers were redone with new crystals and lighting. And the nostalgic feeling of an era passed is firmly in tact.
Leather abounds, along with some remade banquettes in bright blue, pink and army-green hues. Carpeting remains throughout the two dining rooms (one of which features a pair of large paned windows into the kitchen) and lounge, with the exception of the 40-seat bar area, which has been tiled. Around the corner in a 60-seat lounge area they're calling the Williamsburg room is another full bar, along with a grand piano – which will have a movable, make-shift bar around it on some nights – and a fireplace. Everything has the look of being solid and heavy, from the doors to the stools to the brass mirrors on the walls.
As for the exterior? Outside a fresh coat of paint, that iconic facade is staying.
Riebel’s menu, however, is still being kept close to the vest with staff saying only that the chef is “bringing back some classics, but elevating them.” A couple hints: Signs point to the popular popovers returning, and pot pies and the famous Lex salad – an iceberg lettuce concoction with a signature dressing – could make a comeback, in a new way.
Bartenders will churn out updated classic cocktails – the Lexington is calling them “tipples” – such as Vesper martinis, Gin Collins and a host of Old Fashioned preparations (Wisconsin-style with brandy, island-style with rum and lime, Jalisco-style with tequila and flamed orange, among others). There’s also a tiki section – think a jazzed up Singapore Sling – and a Moscow Mule and brandy sour on tap.
Eventually, the Lexington will be adding lunch and brunch services – as well as a rooftop patio in the summer time – but for now they’re sticking with dinner as well as a “social hour” from 3 to 5 p.m.